It Could Happen to Others

Was the Holocaust of the Jewish people truly unique and none other exists? Weren't other nations murdered before it, and aren't others being murdered now?

There's no more doubt that the world has opened itself to Jewish suffering; but has Jewish suffering opened to the world and its suffering? I wish I was sure.

Three months ago, the United Nations General Assembly decided to set January 27 as an international memorial day for the Holocaust and its victims. From now on, this special date will be marked every year in various countries because it is the anniversary of the day the Red Army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

Last Friday, 61 years after the liberation, the UN decision was executed for the first time, and the echoes reverberated from one end of the country to the other, darkening the skies with the memory of how nobody then offered us mercy. The international skies were lowered to half mast. And suddenly, the world was on our side, the very same world that is all against us, as many of our politicians insist on portraying it.

In my new book, published this month, I tried to apprehend the darkness that God, and particularly people, brought to this world. Ever since I started forming my own opinions, I've been drawn there, to the valley of the shadow of death, to Auschwitz-Birkenau, in the wake of the urge to understand and the horror of what is understood. Who am I, who was born here, to dare even try to dispute K. Tzetnik, who defined Auschwitz as "another planet." But maybe the horror and revulsion are precisely because Auschwitz was not another planet; it's because it was the same planet, the planet of the human race, the inhuman race, our planet.

The international community opened up to us and opens for us, and we always know how to answer, but not always what to ask: Was the Holocaust of the Jewish people truly unique and none other exists? Weren't other nations murdered before it, and aren't others being murdered now? True, the Jewish holocaust is known for its characteristics, unique to it. It is doubtful if any other people ever discussed the destruction of an entire nation, came up with the idea of a "final solution" and then carefully planned and executed it systematically and efficiently.

But the history of humankind is inhuman, on its way to hell on earth, full of cases of genocide. Only in the last century, more than 140 million people were murdered, and the bloody hand is still grasping for more. There's no need to compare holocaust to holocaust, genocide to genocide, to recognize the suffering of other nations and to identify with them. The Jewish holocaust is so satanic that it allows us to also share in the suffering and pain and not to demand a monopoly for ourselves. Even when we share, there will always be unbearable excess for us. Not just Hitler; Stalin killed tens of millions of his people and Mao killed as much as he did. And in the 20th century, Armenians and Cambodians, Rwandese and Bosnians have been murdered. Right now, genocide is occuring in Darfur in western Sudan. And the world goes on as usual, in silence, as if standing on the blood somehow silences it, but it screams. Even here, in Israel, nobody hears. We may be Jews, but our ears are uncircumcised.

We of all people, Jews wherever we may be, the natural and historic victims, must be in front with the message from one side of the world to the other: What was done to us by an evil Germany could happen to others. A holocaust is not a one-time affair that only Germans can do, and only Jews are the victims. Hitler hid out in the Black Forest, and who knows when he will show up again and where.

It's not over its exclusivity that we loyally serve the lesson of the Holocaust, but through its universality. Those who want to put the Holocaust into the book of yesterday as a dying lesson will insist on exclusivity. Those who want to make it a living lesson for the book of today and tomorrow will insist on universality, which the International Holocaust Memorial Day symbolizes.

Without the general lesson, the memory of the Holocaust will lose its educational mission, its value and its deterrent strength. The day's not far off when the Holocaust will blur, and none of the memorial days will help. With so many official memorial days there won't be any real memory. The international community decided that's what it wants - teaching the lesson to everyone ready to take it, to everyone in the world. Is that what we want, too? "Remember what Amalek did to you" - certainly remember, and remind. But not only Amalek and not only what was done to you and not only in the past tense.